Suddenly having a teen in the house, and I say suddenly because the teens hits very suddenly, out of the blue, changed the whole parenting game because you can’t threaten with the naughty corner or a smack on the bum anymore. More than correcting bad behaviour though, something that comes with parenting a teen is the responsibility to keep them motivated and focused.
High school, whether we like it or not, is important and does, in many ways, determine the path we will walk. A bad matric can be fixed but it does make life a little harder but for many teenagers that is of little importance. Motivating a teenager is not always easy, in fact sometimes it is downright hard but it is something as parents, we have to work through.
I often say my teen is naturally motivated and he is but I do think the foundation we have put in place has helped him, and his sister who is a couple of months away from diving head first into teen land.
Like each toddler is different and some respond to star charts and others to absolutely nothing, so teens are the same but this is what we have done and for now it is working.
- Boundaries. I write about this often and I sometimes think it may also be my down fall but setting boundaries is vital to the functioning of any relationship. Even though you have had a set of boundaries for your kids don’t assume that when they become teenagers they will adhere to them. They will push back and they will push back hard, so you will find yourself daily having to redraw the lines in the sand. Decide on those non-negotiables and draw the line, every day if you must but keep drawing it. Then the boundaries that are negotiable, do not just let them go but rather negotiate them until you reach a place everyone is comfortable.
- COMMUNICATE. I cannot stress this enough. The channels of communication need to ALWAYS be open. It is ok if they do not want to discuss something with you now, but they do need to talk to you.
- There is no such thing as privacy. I have had many a heated debate with parents about this, some agree with me while some don’t. I am ok with it, but my children know that I can check their phones, their cupboards, their bags if I feel I need to. The internet is a dark place when it wants to be and I will not be that parent who says “I had no idea.” For the sake of clarity, I do not check all my kids messages every day nor do I follow them around when they are out, they all have their privacy but “big brother” is always watching them.
I see you wondering how that will help keep your teen motivated, well you can’t build a house on sinking sand can you, so you need the basics in place first.
- Know what is going on in your child’s life. I am not talking about asking for blow by blows of their day but ask how they are coping with school, are their subjects they are struggling with it or a teacher who is getting them down. Teachers can play a huge part in how motivated your child is (or not as the case may be). You know your child, even the smelly moody teen skulking around the house, so when they talk to you watch their body language, that will probably tell you more than their answers.
- Focus on their strengths. Some kids just don’t like English but excel at Science, focus on the wins, build their confidence in the things they can do instead of focusing on the things they can’t do.
- Don’t ignore the issues and get help sooner rather than later. If they are struggling with school work, get them help the minute you pick it up. Maybe it is as simple as a one on one explanation of something but it could also need a few extra lessons. If it is an emotional issue, don’t ignore it either. If your child is being bullied by their peers or a teacher, you need to guide them through it and make sure you know what is going on. These issues can often have a bigger impact on your child’s over well-being, so do not ignore them.
- Equip them with life skills. When your kids are little, you focus on manners and teaching them how to physically do things like get dressed, eat by themselves but as they get older they need to learn skills that aren’t as easy as “button the top button first”. They need to learn how deal with disappointment, heartache and crappy people. We recently went through something that has resulted, hopefully, in some coping skills. Instead of telling your teen what to do, teach them how to decide for themselves what they want to do. Teens will shut down when you start telling them what to do so instead of forcing them to sit down and study, perhaps start discussions about what their plan is, where they want to go, what they want to do and then discuss the steps to get to that point.
- Teach them how to set goals. We all know how important goal setting is and it is never too easy to encourage your child to set some goals. This helps them to stay focused and motivated but be careful not to set the goals for them. Let them decide what is important and where their focus and set their own goals.
- Let them swim. Ok so obviously not everyone wants to swim but I strongly believe that a disciplined sport, like swimming, helps to keep your child motivated. It teaches them so many life lessons and the bonus is they have no time for anything else. It doesn’t have to be swimming, obviously but find something that has a certain amount of discipline and that your child enjoys.
No one really prepares you for parenting a teen and it does sort of just hit you in the face and you find yourself standing in your kitchen one morning after your teen has unleashed their teen rage, mouth open, unsure what the hell just happened. Not alike the first time your baby threw a tantrum for the very first time.
Your child changes and your once, sweet child becomes a moody, dark, sometimes, unlikeable thing moving through the house like the grim reaper (or a unicorn pooping rainbows depending on what their hormones decide.) As hard as it, you need to up your parenting game and make sure you stay on top of it.
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